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Tuesday, Mar. 21, 2006 at 6:06 PM
Open Letter to the Anti-War Movement
As all the latest polls show (even amongst soldiers), this country now stands increasingly opposed to the war on Iraq. This is a testament to the work of the anti war-movement, as well as the real difficulties the Bush Administration is having in prosecuting the war, and the desire of the people of Iraq and the surrounding region to end the occupation. In this context, World Can’t Wait – Drive Out the Bush Regime! is mobilizing for and joining others in making the correct demand to end the war now in protests around the third anniversary of the start of the war, and on April 29th.
At the same time, in order to effectively oppose the war, it has to be understood and acted on as part of the whole direction the Bush Regime is taking society and the world. We are calling on both ANSWER and UFPJ to bring their efforts to bear on not allowing this regime to determine the future for generations to come.
After 9/11, the Bush regime launched an endless war targeting first Afghanistan, and then Iraq (with Iran and other countries now in their sights), with a doctrine of "pre-emptive" attacks. The conduct of this war says much about the character of this regime: systematic torture made legal, a brutal occupation of chemical warfare, bombing of innocent people, and blitzkrieg attacks on whole cities, all based on blatant lies.
While casting out on this "crusade on the world," US society is being radically remade. Police state measures (like the Patriot Act or NSA spying) are made permanent and legal, and dissent is increasingly suppressed; immigrants are demonized, subject to round-ups and detention without due process, and even hunted down by right-wing vigilantes; a narrow and hateful brand of Christian fundamentalism increasingly determines Government policy, with moves to ban abortion and birth control, legal and extra-legal attacks on homosexuals; and the suppression of science itself, with the outright denial of the very real threat of global warming, and "abstinence only" education policies while millions suffer and die from AIDS.
Taken as a whole, the Bush program constitutes a fascist remaking of society. While each of its crimes must be resisted and stopped in their own right, there is an urgent need to confront the full scope of this trajectory and mobilize people to reverse this whole direction. In order for this to happen, people must break out of the political confines being set by the Bush regime, and the non-opposition of the Democrats, and act based on what is true and right.
In UFPJ's call for April 29th, many of the essential concentrations of this fascist remaking of society are left off of its list of demands, and the nature and danger of this full program is absent. To take one example: despite the fact that one of the rally's main organizers is the National Organization for Women, the call for April 29th fails to even mention the attacks on a woman’s right to choose. These attacks are in fact pushing closer each day to overturn Roe v. Wade entirely (with no intention of stopping there). The point isn't simply to add the right to abortion (or other issues) to a list of demands, but that the whole program has to be resisted and stopped.
What's disturbing about the failure to include abortion in UFPJ's demands for this demonstration is not only that it is an urgent and necessary demand – which it is – but that the failure to include this seems already to indicate a direction of tailoring and shaping protest to the political terms being set by the Bush regime and the non-opposition of the Democratic Party leadership. Or at least by the dubious and dangerous proposition that the politics of mobilization and protest should be determined by what's deemed "elect-able politics" under the current political order.
Instead, it's essential to base our opposition on the understanding that, as the World Can’t Wait Call puts it, "That which you will not resist and mobilize to stop, you will learn — or be forced — to accept." If your aim is to really address the situation, and even if you see influencing the upcoming election as an important part of that, you are far better off not adopting the terms of these "official politics," but instead basing your protest on facing the full reality, bringing forward demands that reflect this, and getting all of society to respond to your demands and program. Otherwise, we risk turning demonstrations, no matter how large, not only into ritualized affairs, but still worse into mobilizations that end up channeling your main energies into an election that does not express the people's interests and desires. This leaves people, in the end, demoralized, demobilized, and even pacified by having adapted themselves to stifling political terms.
Haven’t we seen this often enough already? What happened in the 2004 election? The massive opposition to Bush and the war, which we saw manifested in powerful demonstrations in 2003, was funneled to support for candidates like Kucinich and Dean (who claimed to be opposed to Bush and the war), to the more "elect-able" candidate, Kerry, who openly supported the war (and the Patriot Act, and most of Bush's program). Not surprisingly, in a contest over who would be "tough on terror," Bush won (fairly or fraudulently). This was a defeat in two ways: the Bush regime stayed in power to further their program, and the massive opposition (which manifested itself in hundreds of thousands protesting the Republican National Convention just two months before the election) accepted the political terms set by this regime and was left demoralized and demobilized.
What would be the consequences of seeing a protest movement hemmed into these politics now –– and this regime pushing even further down its truly extreme path? This would only make people accommodate to new outrages and feel powerless in the face of a vicious onslaught.
The stage is already being set for this to happen in 2006. Candidates are being picked by the Democratic leadership who go along with the war, increasingly oppose abortion, and support new police state measures, all under the rubric of what they deem is "elect-able." Meanwhile, when candidates emerge who oppose the war and don’t hold back from a scathing critique of the Bush administration, they are labeled as "unpatriotic" and pressured to drop out of the race (just look at what happened to Paul Hackett). And as for Iraq, what the Democratic leadership offers is not an end to the war, but "strategic redeployment".
If the movements opposing this war do not stick to principle, but instead end up supporting candidates who oppose their demands, this will only make things worse. If the thousands mobilized out in the streets to demand an end to the war are hemmed back into an official politics in which such a demand is beyond the pale, this will in fact work against the efforts to stop the war. As it says in World Can’t Wait's Call, "This whole idea of putting our hopes and energies into 'leaders' who tell us to seek common ground with fascists and religious fanatics is proving every day to be a disaster, and actually serves to demobilize people."
We must also point out that channeling opposition toward candidates who support the war is not the only problem confronting the anti-war movement. There is also a stubborn refusal to confront the full scope and scale of what the Bush regime is doing, and its implications for the not-so-distant future.
ANSWER's call for action on the 3rd anniversary of the war says that singling out the Bush administration for protest is an "exercise in misleadership". While we would be the first to point out the complicity of the Democratic Party leadership in the war, at the same time a failure to recognize the fascist remaking of the world and bring this understanding to the people we are seeking to mobilize against the war will only consign people to ignore and be crushed by this onslaught.
In fact, those who believe that injustice and oppression are systemic to this country should grasp even more readily how a regime could emerge that would take all this to new extremes. When you take a sober look at what the Bush regime is cementing into place, from a doctrine of pre-emptive war, open and legalized torture, new police state laws, and the moves towards theocracy, and the whole package all this is part of (as described above), this nightmare is not simply a continuation of previous injustices but marks a whole "new normalcy" with horrible consequences for the planet and its people. And it is hard to conceive of making any progressive changes without stopping this deadly trajectory.
The fact is, even with the complicity of the Democratic leadership, the Bush regime is the driving force in and power presiding over all this. Without driving the Bush regime from power and repudiating its whole program, we cannot meet the enormity of the challenge we face. Such an approach does not imply an endorsement of the Democrats, but building a movement uniting and mobilizing the millions of people disgusted by the current direction of society to take independent political action outside of the killing confines of the "official politics" with the aim of driving out the Bush regime. The success of such a movement will not only mean removal from power of the most pressing danger to the world, but would also usher in whole new possibilities for progressive social change with the emergence of a people that have driven out a monstrous clique and are newly energized and organized and ready to take society in a much, much better direction.
Within World Can't Wait, there are many different views about what should replace the Bush regime, from reforming the Democratic party, to building a 3rd party, to revolution. What has brought this movement together is people from diverse perspectives and backgrounds seeing the urgent need to change the whole direction of society. And it is our hope that major anti-war organizations like ANSWER and UFPJ will join this movement to drive out the Bush regime while continuing their efforts to end the war.
As we confront the 3rd anniversary of an unjust war, people around the world are looking to see if the people in this country are just going along, or if there is a growing resistance that will not allow this disastrous course to continue. A movement that sticks to principle and mobilizes people based on what’s true and what’s right can "join with and give support and heart to people all over the globe who so urgently need and want this regime to be stopped" (World Can't Wait Call).
To close with the following from our Call:
The point is this: history is full of examples where people who had right on their side fought against tremendous odds and were victorious. And it is also full of examples of people passively hoping to wait it out, only to get swallowed up by a horror beyond what they ever imagined. The future is unwritten. WHICH ONE WE GET IS UP TO US.
End the War!
The World Can't Wait!
Drive Out the Bush Regime!
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